Special Town Meeting tonight

The Charlton Board of Selectmen did in fact call another Special Town Meeting as promised, to attempt to pass the highway barn project again. I do have somewhat mixed feelings about it, as the town does need something, but the proposed project is rather expensive and would directly impact our taxes. But it may be cheaper in the long run than doing nothing and not taking good care of the millions and millions of dollars of equipment that would be stored there over the next many years. It’s certainly cheaper to do it now than it will be later when the economy recovers. I voted for it at the Oct. 28 Special Town Meeting, because their presentation convinced me. However, it was defeated 78y-52n (it needed a 2/3 majority), and so I voted against the related ballot question as it seemed too open-ended and it wasn’t clear what the consequences were if it passed. Since it did pass, and I voted for it before, it seems like I would vote for it again tonight. But I’m not sure, I guess because it’s still a lot of money.

Also on the warrant for tonight is a sex offender residency restriction bylaw. I definitely have mixed feelings about laws like that. It seems strange to me to restrict where people get to live, while at the same time I want my family and community protected from people who are possibly dangerous. My first instinct is that it makes people feel better while not actually doing a whole lot to protect anyone, but I’m really not sure.

Cell Tower Update

The cell tower being planned for my parents’ land was approved by the Conservation Commission last week, and was quickly approved the Planning Board on Wednesday. Now there’s a 30-day waiting period in case anyone files an appeal. (Which is unlikely, as there were no objectors at the Planning Board hearing.) Then, Verizon can get a driveway permit and building permit and put the tower up.

Cell Tower Update

As I alluded to before, Verizon Wireless is planning on building a cell tower on my parents’ land. It’s far enough away and there are enough trees around that it shouldn’t really be visible from my yard, and really not visible much from anywhere except the back of my parent’s yard.

At the Conservation Commission hearing on Oct. 15, they were unhappy with the road layout (they thought it could be done in a way that required less relocation of wetlands), and they cited my dad and his neighbor (on the other side from us) with violations, for things like having dirt and brush in the woods.

Those issues have been corrected, and I think there’s another Conservation Commission hearing at some point. I also got a certified letter this week from the Charlton Planning Board letting us know that the Planning Board hearing is on Nov. 19.

The Highway Barn saga continues

So, since the Highway Barn borrowing failed at Town Meeting, I thought the Highway Barn debt exclusion was meaningless and wouldn’t pass, and then people at the polls were urging people to vote for it, and it passed, although only by 44 votes.

And thus today’s Telegram & Gazette reports they’re considering trying another Special Town Meeting.

The main thing I wonder is how long the debt exclusion is valid for. If this doesn’t pass at Town Meeting again and all is forgotten, can Charlton in 10, 50, or 100 years exclude from Prop. 2½ borrowing for a new highway facility? I tried reading through the law but didn’t see it.

Going to a Bowling Tournament

On Nov. 17, Jessi and I will be playing in a Bowling “Tournament” fundraiser at Bogey Lanes for WYCM, the local Christian music radio station. The theory is that we each bowl three strings of bowling, and people sponsor us per pin how much to give as a donation to the radio station.

I expect it to be a lot of fun, although neither Jessi nor I are particularly good at bowling.

If you’re interesting in helping out by sponsoring us, please email me. Thanks.

The morning after; Quote of the Day

Well, out of all the positions on the ballot and all 5 questions on my ballot, with the exception of one unopposed candidate that I voted for, no race went the way I voted for it.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” — Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Voting Complete

I voted this morning. I’ve never seen a line that long in Charlton before, but it moved quickly.

The most interesting thing I saw there was a large campaign from the Highway Dept. trying to get people to pass Question #4. I guess it must not be as irrelevant as I thought. They probably figure that if they get it to pass, they have a good shot at calling a Special Town Meeting and getting the borrowing for it to pass.

Vote NO on Question #4/#5 (6th Worcester District for Mass. State Rep.)

Question #4 or #5, depending on where in the district you are, is a non-binding public policy question to give a suggestion to the state representative for our district, as follows:

“Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation distributing $450 million from the state’s ‘rainy day’ stabilization fund to the cities and towns of the Commonwealth for residential property tax relief?”

There’s a lot more involved in this question than meets the eye at first. Part of Ron Chernisky‘s campaign against Rep. Geraldo Alicea is that Alicea voted against some amendments that would have taken money from the “rainy day” stabilization fund and distributed it to towns as unrestricted local aid. In fact, part of Chernisky’s campaign staff worked at getting this question on the ballot in this district. (It’s on the ballot in a few other districts as well, unrelated to the Chernisky campaign as far as I can tell.)

If I’m to understand what Chernisky said at the debate correctly, there was a bill to spend $450 million from the stabilization fund on various state projects. Rep. Frost from Auburn submitted an amendment to spend that money on direct local aid instead, and that’s what Alicea voted against. Alicea seemed to think that Chernisky was talking about a different vote at a different time.

However, the question on the ballot isn’t about when we spend from stabilization, do we do so on state programs or local programs. I think the question here is really about whether we should spend out of the stabilization fund at all. And I think that the state right now needs as much in there as they can get, to get through the economic downturn with as high a bond rating as possible. Last I heard, the state already isn’t getting as good a rate on their bonds as they’d like. Draining the state’s savings account for a one-time boost to cities and towns just doesn’t seem responsible to me. As Alicea says (maybe the only thing I agree with him on), it’s like raiding your 401(k) to pay for groceries.

I don’t know whether this measure will pass or not, or if it will really mean anything either way. The public policy questions never get a whole lot of media attention, although there was a front-page article in Friday’s Southbridge Evening News (PDF) about it. I’m interested to see what the result is, though.